BBC ignores PA double standards on Coronavirus related mosque closures

With BBC Jerusalem bureau coverage of the Coronavirus story having focused mainly on Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip, audiences have heard much less about the measures being taken by Israeli authorities to combat the pandemic, including at religious sites in Jerusalem.

On March 15th the director of al Aqsa Mosque announced that it would be closed in light of the Covid 19 outbreak but that prayers would continue to be held outside.

Five days later clashes erupted in Jerusalem as police sought to limit the number of people arriving for Friday prayers in accordance with Ministry of Health directives and the chairman of the Waqf was subsequently fined for allowing worshippers to gather in breach of those guidelines.

On March 22nd the Waqf decided to close the compound to all but Waqf employees.

“The administration of the Wakf Islamic religious trust announced on Sunday that it has decided to suspend prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem as of Monday morning to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The unprecedented decision came in accordance with recommendations by religious and health parties, the Jordanian-controlled Wakf said after holding an emergency meeting in Jerusalem.

The decision means that worshipers would not be permitted to enter the compound starting Monday. […]

In the past few weeks, hundreds of Muslims have been converging on the compound for prayers, ignoring warnings by the Israeli Health Ministry and other health institutions in Jerusalem.”

The Palestinian Authority had already closed mosques and other religious institutions in areas under its control on March 14th. Nevertheless, the PA’s official daily newspaper published an article on March 22nd criticising Israel for that decision taken by the Waqf.

“The lead article adorning Al-Hayat Al-Jadida’s front page detailed the Islamic Wakf Council’s criticism of Israel for fining the council’s chairman Abdul Azim Salhab NIS 5,000 for not closing the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount on Friday. According to the article, Salhab claimed that Israel was simply taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak, exploiting it as a means to harm Muslims by closing the mosque.”

The same edition of the paper also criticised Hamas for not closing mosques in the Gaza Strip.

Readers may recall that Salhab – who has a long record of promotion of incitement using baseless rumours about ‘threats’ to al Aqsa Mosque – was interviewed by the BBC in 2017.  

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BBC yawns at PA paper’s call for violence at Holocaust commemoration

Ahead of a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp which is to be held at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem later this week with the participation of numerous world leaders including Prince Charles, the Palestinian Authority’s official newspaper published an op-ed which, after translation by PMW, has received local and wider Jewish media coverage.

“The official Palestinian Authority daily published an opinion piece on Saturday that called for a terrorist attack on a major upcoming memorial ceremony in Israel marking 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, saying, “One shot will disrupt the ceremony and one dead body will cancel the ceremony.” […]

According to a translation from Palestinian Media Watch, columnist Yahya Rabah wrote in PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida that Israel “is now energetically planning to hold a ceremony for the Holocaust in occupied Jerusalem, and it is accustomed to the world participating with it in this ceremony, as the Jews’ Holocaust is terrible, but the Palestinian holocaust by Israel that still continues is insignificant, beautiful, spectacular, and good.”

“Of course, the Palestinians will never accept this equation, and it can be assumed that they will resist the ceremony being held in Jerusalem itself, as Jerusalem is theirs, despite Trump, who gave it to Israel as part of the filthy deal of the century,” he added.

Rabah then called for an act of terrorism, writing, “One shot will disrupt the ceremony and one dead body will cancel the ceremony.””

Like the rest of the British media the BBC – which of course has an entire department dedicated to translation of foreign language media – has to date not deemed that narrative-busting article published by a Palestinian Authority mouthpiece to be remotely newsworthy.

A Gaza healthcare story the BBC chooses to ignore

In early August we noted that work had begun on a sixteen-department field hospital near the Erez Crossing at the north of the Gaza Strip and that the Palestinian Authority was objecting to the project.

“Although BBC audiences are told plenty about the dire state of medical services in the Gaza Strip, they rarely hear about the PA actions which exacerbate that situation such as the longstanding insufficient supply of medications. Whether or not they will be informed of this latest own goal from the Palestinian Authority remains to be seen.”

Despite the fact that the BBC has a staffed office in the Gaza Strip, audiences have indeed heard nothing about the new hospital or the Palestinian Authority’s specious claim that the field hospital was “part of a plan to separate the West Bank from the Gaza Strip”.

Since then the PA’s official media has managed to come up with even more bizarre claims – as reported by PMW.

“A private American organization is to build a hospital at the northern end of the Gaza Strip. Israel has already admitted hospital equipment into the Strip. But the project is being condemned by the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health, which claims that “the American hospital project is not innocent, and its goals are dangerous.” [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 27, 2019]

Elaborating on these alleged “dangerous goals,” an op-ed in the official PA daily claimed that the hospital is run by “the CIA,” and its purpose is not to treat the sick Palestinians but “to carry out experiments on the sick Palestinians,” and “to be a partner in trafficking in human organs”.”

As the Jerusalem Post reminds us:

“In March, the Palestinian Authority announced it would stop providing its citizens with medical treatment in Israel. This was its reaction to the Israeli decision to withhold $138 million in tax money from the PA, which is the implementation of the Jewish state’s “Pay-for-Slay” law that instructs it to deduct and freeze the amount of money the authority pays in salaries to imprisoned terrorists and families of “martyrs” from the tax money Israel collects for it.”

Apparently the BBC is not interested in stories relating to healthcare in the Gaza Strip if they cannot be used to promote the inaccurate view that (as also claimed by Hamas) that the system’s many problems are primarily attributable to Israel’s counter-terrorism measures and the roles of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in creating and exacerbating the crisis cannot be airbrushed from the story.

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BBC Monitoring amplifies PA outlet’s propaganda

Among the considerable coverage of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal which has appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page in the past few days was an article dated April 24th which was compiled by BBC Monitoring and is titled “Media divided over Palestinian unity deal“.

In that round-up of reactions to the deal in the Palestinian and Israeli press, the section dealing with the former ends with the following paragraph.

“The Jerusalem-based paper, Al-Quds, notes Washington’s expression of “disappointment” that the deal could seriously complicate peace talks, while Al-Hayat al-Jadidah says that Israel’s immediate reaction to the announcement was to bomb Gaza.” [emphasis added]

HF deal BBC monitoring

Israel of course did not “bomb Gaza” as a “reaction” to the announcement of the deal at all. What did happen – as even the BBC itself reported at the time – is that coincidently shortly after the deal was announced, a terrorist about to perpetrate a missile attack on Israeli civilians was targeted in the Beit Lahia area. Here is how BBC News reported the incident eventually:

“Shortly after Wednesday’s reconciliation deal was announced, five people were injured in an Israeli air strike in northern Gaza, Palestinian medics said.

Israel said it had targeted militants preparing to fire rockets. On Monday, seven rockets were launched from the territory into southern Israel.”

BBC Monitoring however makes no attempt to inform the readers of this report that the claim made by the Palestinian Authority mouthpiece Al-Hayat al-Jadidah is inaccurate both in terms of its suggestion that the incident was in “reaction” to the announcement of the deal and in terms of its misleading assertion regarding the scope of the incident: one man in Beit Lahia was attacked: not “Gaza”.

It is of course highly unfortunate that BBC Monitoring – with disturbing similarity to Al-Hayat al-Jadidah – appears to consider the unqualified amplification of misleading defamatory falsehoods promoted by the Palestinian Authority to be part of its repertoire.